Institute shines spotlight on women, leadership

Posted on Feb 26, 2021 :: Commentary
Posted by , Insight on Business Staff Writer

Women’s leadership is a topic I’ve been hearing about since I was an undergrad at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. There have been many books about what works and what doesn’t, but the topic remains an important one as women still look to have their voices heard and get the opportunity to lead organizations.

Consider these facts: Women make up half the world’s talent pool and 50.2 percent of the college-educated workforce but still only hold 25 percent of leadership roles. Statistics like that led the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay to create the Institute for Women’s Leadership. The new program is designed to serve as a comprehensive leadership resource for women in Northeast Wisconsin and will strive to eliminate barriers that narrow opportunities at all stages in women’s professional careers.

Joy Ruzek, vice chancellor of the division of continuing education and community engagement and co-founder of the institute, says women lag substantially behind men when it comes to their representation in leadership roles, “showing there is clearly a broken rung on the career ladder for women.”

There have been other initiatives and projects focused on women’s leadership in the New North, but with UW-Green Bay now involved, I’m hoping the issue will have a larger platform that more people will pay attention to. 

UW-Green Bay says the institute will not only offer networking, educational opportunities, presentations and other events, but also raise the profile of women in leadership throughout the state through benchmarking data and research. The institute also will incorporate programs from The Connective: A Place for Women in Business, which was founded by Bridget O’Connor, owner of O’Connor Connective in De Pere.

The institute’s other co-founder — Sheryl Van Gruensven, UW-Green Bay’s chief business officer and senior vice chancellor for institutional strategy — says one of the university’s most powerful actions is to “create a culture of ‘conscious inclusion,’ ensuring the region has a pipeline of women leaders.”

Learning more about the institute, I agree with something else Ruzek says about it: “Our goal is to build an ongoing culture where everyone brings their whole self to work each day and feels valued, heard and able to make an impact while progressing in their careers. By giving access to more representative voices, our society and economy will only get stronger.”

Providing women with more leadership opportunities can only benefit businesses and organizations. It’s time to let them in.